Visual Arts

The prominence of the arts at Putney is illustrated by the extensive studio facilities and the exhibited work seen everywhere on campus. Academic and evening visual art courses comprise all of the major fine arts disciplines as well as many media not often offered at the secondary level, such as blacksmithing, lithography, and life drawing.

All of our arts teachers are professional artists who share their expertise and artistic passion with their students. The shared creative energy between students and teachers builds genuine camaraderie and mutual respect. “Talent” is not a word the art department uses, as we believe that we all have the potential to be creative.

Our involvement in the visual arts extends well beyond campus. We travel to art museums in Boston and New York and to the many excellent college museums in New England; to artist's studios; to marble quarries and artist's residencies; to new landscapes of coastal New England and as far away as Italy and Holland.

We also bring art and artists to Putney. Our Art Gallery has hosted such prominent figures as Kara Walker, Sally Mann, David Plowden, and Alex Webb, who have also visited the school. We consider the opportunity to see great art, on campus or wherever we find it, essential to a student's creative development at Putney.

Visual Arts Courses

Drawing I (0.5 credit)

In this course, students develop their ability to perceive the world around them and skillfully translate their perceptions to paper. Students will become fluent in expression of the basic elements of visual experience: light, gesture, edge, mass, texture and space. Subjects will include the human head, the figure, still life, landscape and interior in a variety of wet and dry media. Participants will be encouraged to explore personally significant themes by maintaining a sketchbook of images from daily life. Images of notable artists will be studied in class and in a visit to a major museum. The class will regularly critique and discuss each other’s work in order to share experiences, identify successful elements of student work and support each others’ efforts.

Drawing II, III (0.5 credit)

In this course, students learn to express the perceived world with greater skill and clarity as they develop the expressive elements of a personal style. Students are encouraged to explore new media and approaches and to develop their fundamental skills more fully. Emphasis is placed on interpretation and discussion of one’s own work and the work of others. Subjects will include the human head, the figure, still life, landscape and interior in a variety of wet and dry media. Participants will be encouraged to explore personally significant themes by maintaining a sketchbook of images from daily life. Students will also develop a portfolio on a single theme consisting of many extended studies and variations in approach. Prerequisite: Drawing I or permission of the instructor.

Painting I (0.5 credit)

This course will focus on developing the expressive and structural elements of painting. Students will come to understand and control color through the expressive application of acrylic, oil and watercolor paint. Subjects will include the figure, head, still life, landscape, and interior, as well as invented sources and images of personal significance to each student. The works of acknowledged masters and other relevant precedents will be studied, both in reproduction and in a visit to a major museum collection. In frequent class discussions, students will share experiences, identify successful elements of design, composition, materials and color and provide mutual encouragement. Participants will create a cohesive body of work related to a specific theme. Prerequisite: Drawing I.

Painting II, III (0.5 credit)

This course, intended for students with a strong foundation in drawing, allows them to pursue ideas of color and painted form with emphasis on the head, figure, and landscape. Fundamentals of painting are stressed and students are encouraged, through specific projects, to develop a “painterly vocabulary” of color, light, and form. Concepts of abstraction and representation are addressed as students increase their visual awareness and understanding in relation to their own painting. The course culminates in large-scale paintings and projects based on themes of personal interest to each painter. Participants will articulate their ideas through frequent presentations, group discussions and critiques. Prerequisite: Drawing I, Painting I, or permission of the instructor.

Printmaking I, II, III (0.5 credit)

This course will focus on learning various printmaking techniques as well as developing students’ individual creative processes and imagery. Students will explore intaglio (etching, drypoint, and aquatint) and relief (linoleum cut and letterpress). Further emphasis in the class will be on the self-editing process, keeping an active sketchbook, studying the elements and principals of design, looking at historic and contemporary printmakers, and developing an individual and expressive voice. Students in Printmaking II will explore techniques in intaglio, lithography, and relief printmaking through sustained individual projects.

Sculpture I (0.5 credit)

This course guides students in exploring the skills and techniques of sculpture using various materials and approaches. Students will learn the processes of modeling, carving, and welding using clay, wax, plaster, wood, stone and metal. Drawings and three-dimensional models will be used to create designs for sculpture. Students will be expected to complete sculptures in various media. Understanding the history and integrity of the material are emphasized as students create their work. Realism, abstraction, and symbolism are explored as ways of translating ideas into sculptural form. Reading and written work, presentations, discussions, field trips, and critiques integrate the work of other sculptors with the student’s studio work. Prerequisite: none.

Sculpture II, III (0.5 credit)

This course, intended for students with previous sculpting experience, allows them to delve into sculptural materials of their preference to create a cohesive series of sculptures or one or two larger single works. Students will be encouraged to experiment, but also to develop mastery of their chosen sculptural techniques. Students learn to articulate thoughts and goals for their own work through reading and written reflection, presentations, discussions, and critiques. The class will study the work of past and contemporary sculptors. Prerequisite: Sculpture I or permission of the instructor.

Ceramics I, II, III (0.5 credit)

This class exposes students at all levels of experience to the wide array of techniques that are possible for the means of expression with clay. Students are expected to develop good craftsmanship and pay attention to detail. Innovation and experimentation are highly encouraged. Students move through increasingly complex techniques in both hand building and wheel work. Along with different construction methods, students are introduced to a variety of surface decoration possibilities, such as texturing, carving, and painting with slips. Form, design, and proportion are explored as well as function. Students fire their work in a gas kiln. For a section of the spring trimester there is the opportunity to collect local clay, make pots, and do a pit-firing. Studio work is augmented with the study of relevant books, magazines, and videos.

Fiber Arts I, II, III (0.5 credit)

This is a studio art course, using textiles to explore structure, function, color and design. Through individual projects, students will learn about a wide range of techniques, leading to the development of an idea into a finished product. The primary focus is on weaving, but felting, basketry, dyeing, sewing and quilting may be covered. Fiber Arts II is offered to students with previous experience. The focus of the course will be independent projects in the students’ areas of interest including weaving on fourand eightharness floor looms, exploring color through dyeing cellulose and animal fibers, paper making, knitting by hand and machine and clothing design and construction.

Photography I (0.5 credit)

This course examines photography as a visual language. With the help of traditional film cameras, students will explore design elements such as light, line and symmetry in order to build expressive compositions. In addition, we focus on narratives, series building and editing. Students will learn how to process their own negatives and print black and white photographs. Assignments are given with presentations that introduce students to the history of photography. Alternative printing processes will also be covered, including collage printing, multi-media, and toning. Cameras are available to borrow though it is always helpful if a student has their own.

Photography II, III (0.5 credit)

This course builds upon the foundations provided in our basic photography class. Students in this class create portfolios of images. Each portfolio has its own concrete focus and offers the student the opportunity to do in-depth exploration of a genre or alternative photographic technique. Examples of genres include portraiture, still life, existing light and documentary photography. Alternative techniques include infrared film, large format cameras and digital photography. Emphasis is put on building a strong group of images through thoughtful editing of work and careful consideration of compositional features.

Digital Filmmaking (0.5 credit)

This hands-on course explores the use of digital filmmaking as a means of self-expression and as an art form through both narrative and documentary styles. Students will examine elements of storytelling, composition, cinematography, lighting, sound recording, and editing as they create short films throughout the course. A wide variety of filmmakers and film types will be viewed throughout the course to build foundational and historical knowledge of the medium.

Social Documentary Studies (0.5 credit)

This course is an opportunity to study the way in which art reflects the world around us. Students will study documentary photographers with a focus on specific bodies of work which are central to our understanding of history and have changed our perception of truth. We begin by using documentary photography to look at the self, move on to an exploration of the "other," and end with social issues. We will focus on photography, but complementary materials will include literature, historical texts, census data, video, as well as sound and music. Project-based work forms the centerpiece of this course and students should be prepared to create their own documentary work. Each student will complete a major 11 self-designed capstone piece that combines photography with research. In addition to exploring the world of social documentary photography, we will also have a chance to meet a number of local photographers as well as use local historical resources. This course is intended for juniors and seniors. Students can take this course for humanities credit.

History and Language of Art (0.5 credit)

It might be said that the aim of art is to relate the exterior world that we inhabit to the interior world that inhabits us. Through study of Western art from the late medieval period to the 20th century, students learn to see art clearly and relate what they see to its cultural context, with the aim of fostering a lifelong pleasure in looking at art. The class will study works in reproduction and in visits to major museums. Students will also study techniques and materials through hands-on experience of silverpoint drawing, fresco and oil painting, including the manufacture of selected media from raw materials. Students will write critiques of paintings and will execute schematic copies of works of art to reveal their compositional elements. The course culminates in presentation of individual research projects. Meets senior humanities credit; does not fulfill the arts requirement.


The Putney School | Elm Lea Farm, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, Vermont 05346-8675
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